PHOTO SPECIAL TO THE STAR-TELEGRAM/WILLIS KNIGHT
Sharon Wilson of Earthworks distributed what she called the "Mark III B.S. protection mask" to people attending the TCEQ meeting Thursday night at the Arlington City Council Chambers
BY BILL HANNA - Fort Worth Star Telegram - June 25, 2010
ARLINGTON -- State environmental regulators "absolutely" will consider Barnett Shale emissions as part of a new plan to bring North Texas into compliance with federal ozone standards, an official with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said Thursday night.
Susana Hildebrand, the agency's chief engineer, said "everything is on the table" to bring the nine-county region into compliance with the 1997 EPA ozone standard of 85 parts per billion.
"We are particularly concerned about those emissions in Tarrant County," Hildebrand said. "I'm telling you, we are looking at those monitors. Our plan will look at those sites."
But most of the audience in the packed Arlington City Council chambers seemed skeptical.
Calvin Tillman, the mayor of the Denton County town of Dish, which has been a focal point in the testing of Barnett Shale emissions, said the agency is ignoring the natural gas industry as an ozone source.
"Are you here to protect the citizens, the people who came out here today, or are you here to protect large corporations?" Tillman asked. "Because frankly, I don't know whose side you're on."
Hildebrand responded that vapor recovery systems will be considered as part of the plan.
One of the few speakers not critical of the agency was Ed Ireland, executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, an industry group. He praised TCEQ for installing air-monitoring systems and encouraged the agency to install more.
He said the air-monitoring sites in Dish and other locations have shown that the air near gas drilling sites is safe.
The EPA is in the process of reclassifying the Dallas-Fort Worth noncompliance area from moderate to serious. That will officially happen by Dec. 15.
The area's eight-hour ozone average for 2007, 2008 and 2009 was 86 parts per billion, placing it outside the 1997 standard.
The TCEQ will have a year to create a plan once the EPA reclassifies the area, and it will go into effect Dec. 15, 2013.
The EPA is also expected to rule by the end of August on the new standard, which will be between 60 and 70 parts per billion.
Even as the new standard is announced, the 1997 rules and deadlines will still apply, the EPA said.
Anthony Spangler, a spokesman for state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, read a statement from Davis urging that selective catalytic reduction systems similar to one that will be installed on the Lafarge North American cement kiln in Illinois be used on Midlothian cement kilns.
According to Davis, the systems can reduce nitrogen oxides by 80 to 90 percent. Davis also urged the state agency to consider transporting salt water from oil and gas drilling operations through pipelines rather than diesel trucks.
BILL HANNA, 817-390-7698
Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram